Not every page needs a comment bar.
See also: Hide the Comment Bar
Typical uses of comment bars
Comment bars have (currently) a clear function on some pages.
- Business pages: A comment section is a place for people to indicate their personal experiences and opinions.
- User pages: A comment section facilitates a user-to-user conversation.
What's typically discouraged in the comment bar
But, sometimes editors leave comments that would be more useful to others if they were instead added directly to the page.
- Fact changes: Different hours, change of menu, etc.
- Requests for updates and more information, or comments along the line of "Somebody should add XYZ" when instead they could contribute to the DavisWiki by researching the needed information.
And of course:
- Opinions are fine in the main text, too. They're encouraged! (See #8 of Wiki Welcome page.)
The comment bar has several benefits to the wiki.
- The largest impact "benefit" is the low barrier to editing or opening an account - new users readily and easily add comments. It dramatically increases participation in the wiki, despite making a bit of a mess.
- The comment bar provides an easily recognizable metaphor for interacting with the wiki. Folks understand what a "comment" is. It's quick and easy. Almost everyone who begins to edit the wiki starts out by first making a comment somewhere.
- It is a clear way to distinguish facts from opinions (especially when people wish to voice 'negative, hurtful or ill-thought out comments)
- Comments are often interesting to read and it's easy to see them on the Recent Changes page.
The comment bar has several disadvantages to the wiki.
- Readability - pages with a large amount of comments are very difficult to get through; instead of organized text, you have many comments (some rambling or unhelpful) to slog through.
- Accessibility - pages with a large amount of comments are very difficult to scroll through to reach desired content/comment, especially on a smart phone.
- Disempowerment - New users can mistakenly believe that their contributions should ONLY go in the comments section, believing the main content to be the exclusive domain of "someone else".
- Lack of accountability - people can leave a negative, hurtful, or ill-thought-out comment and then never be heard from again, especially if they are anonymous commenters.
- Many comments left can be products of trolls or generally junk, or even simply non-informative (for example, see the "fact changes" line above as typically discouraged)
Perhaps the wiki needs alternative ways to get the sort of information that editors put in Comment Sections, without the problems. See below for proposals on how the wiki could incorporate other mechanisms in the place of or in addition to the Comments macro.
Discussion on key concepts
Some people feel, with all seriousness, that this is an important issue and view it as something that threatens to and — to some extent — has destroyed some of the core concepts of the wiki as a common space where equals meet and every piece of content is shared by all, with no special claim to parts of the wiki. That core concept is something that is viewed with great passion by those people. While a bit of fun is a great way to let off steam, the continued mocking of these ideals and beliefs is starting to get old.
- Truly, I mean no offense. I understand the idea behind it and I think it's very valuable. I think there are some tradeoffs (accessibility, as I mentioned below), and I'm not certain on which side I fall in terms of whether I think it's worth the tradeoff, but I respect principle. I'm looking forward to a more accessible format in the next version of the wiki software which will hopefully serve both goals well. —TomGarberson
- It's the culture change that the bar promotes, from thinking "This is ours; us all working together and sharing all work" into a range of "They got the hours wrong! I'm complaining in a comment!" to "How *dare* you delete/incorporate my words! The First Amendment!" to "Opinions in the article! They aren't allowed to do that! That's the right of the people in their section down below!". William is right about the whole "not every page needs a comment bar", and the seeming answer to it (other than learning curve) is simply, "well, how else are normal people going to have their say about the stuff that the wiki people write", which is a view that makes my chest hurt. It is a literal split down the center of content in the wiki, where below that line, nothing can be edited, and above the line, only the elite few are allowed to make changes (and those have to be "objective" rather than incorporating the community's view and feelings). It's a horrible direction to take things. There are many positive uses of the comment macro, like reviews, fast communication and adding stories about the topic. Those are great, and nobody is advocating for removing the comment bar. It's just the idea that every single page needs to have one that is being questioned here. -jw
- I consider this an important vindication of my views. —ct
- I can get behind that. -tg
To the wiki in general: NOT EVERY PAGE NEEDS A STUPID COMMENT BAR!
We tolerate comment bars on user pages. That's because they're used for communication. They make life slightly easier when you need to communicate with your fellow editors.
We tolerate comment bars on business pages because people like to do "reviews." Ideally, users would edit the main text of the page and add their opinions directly, but few feel comfortable with that.
Outside of those two cases, please cut the comments out and just edit the page directly.
- Somebody raised this as a coming issue — plus the fact that "comment edits" are second-class citizens on an entry and create long, hard to read entries — back around 2005ish. I gave on that fight up a couple years ago, with a trailing effort of comment integration. It's only gotten worse... how many entries are not worth reading, or are difficult to glean information from now? -jw
- To add to the above, I now believe that new editors can't even comprehend the concept of a wiki without ghettoized opinions. I thought this would happen, and it now has. Crap. -jw
- Somebody should develop a "mixed-media" wiki, with main pages in wiki format, but each page with a shadow bulletin-board-style forum for all the talking, chatting, and fighting that could eventually be turned into good content for the page proper.
- Who would turn it into good content?
- What is the sound of one hand clapping?
- Wow. How Zen. ;-) —RyanMikulovsky
- Actually, it always makes me think of the Simpsons. But shouldn't everything be viewed with such sarcasm?
- It is a very serious question. Offloading the comments to a "shadow site" just pushes them farther away. What new mechanism would integrate the information into the entry itself?
- I think the first step is to define a "comment" and a "discussion" as two different things, and then to ask if it's best for both to enter into a page via the comment feature.
- Comment, discussion and review. The former is best integrated, discussion goes stale and grows to become too unwieldy if unchecked (i.e., the talk page discussions that are periodically wiped and can still be referenced in the history of the entry work well, but the various "<subject> Debate" haven't really solved anything and are now so stale nobody new can really add to them). Reviews make sense, but are often "edit via comment", adding information that should be in the entry... that then gets lost in the reviews.
- Good point; there are "reviews" too. So each page should have (1) a comment macro for comments, (2) a discussion board for topical discussions, and (3) some type of form entry page for "reviews" with appropriate quantifiable rating scales as well as qualitative/subjective comments.
- Plus the talk page. And we should also have some kind of live chat forum. And a Twitter feed tied to that entry. Some kind of Skype shared audio discussion would be nice too. Perhaps a live updated mailing list attached to it as well... anything we can do to distract from those pesky wiki entries. Of course, we'll need to have a set of content regulators to manage things when there's a comment that goes into the qualitative/subjective section, or if there's a discussion that gets started in the comment macro, or a fact gets mentioned in the reviews. An editorial staff, perhaps? My point is, we don't integrate the comments we have right now, and we only half-heartedly archive them. Who is going to do all this extra work you propose?
- There have been great advancements in AI recently. (But I do see your point. I don't know about comments, but I think that a lot of the discussion/fighting that goes on through the comments section would be easier to integrate if it were better threaded so as to make it clearer as to what the discussion actually is. This should replace the "Talk" page, not be added in addition to it. Currently, any form of discussion is confusing in the comments section because it gets interspersed with "I like burgers HOT" and "the receptionist at this place is a witch", etc) And yes, Twitter and Skype could be cool too! ;) And sorry about the flu; you coincidentally got the flu when I got the itchy-wiki-fingers.
- Or, the "Talk" page could be retained, but only as a menu pointing to different threaded topics in the forum.
- I actually am somewhat surprised — I actually like the idea of replacing talk pages with a forum. I suppose it's because I really dislike Talk pages here and discussion pages on Wikipedia. They get long, disorganized discussions in ThreadMode that a wiki isn't organized to handle. At the same time, I don't see a bunch of people eager to code Sycamore here, so this will probably stay in the realm of fantasy.
- What I really enjoy is when the comments
- go way, way over to the right of the page, sort of squishing down more and more
- until you feel as though you are reading shorter and shorter thoughts, almost like a conversation that is
- devolving into grunts and snippets
- and it's even better when they aren't signed, so it' like overhearing parts of a conversation at a coffee shop....
- The comment bar makes it easier for the non-sophisticated user to participate. I think if you cut the comment bars out, you cut down participation. —CovertProfessor
- They also make sense on many types of entries. I don't think anybody is talking about getting rid of them entirely, merely using them when appropriate as opposed to having them on every single entry. To turn around your logic, however, they also generate a second class of editors who never figure out that they are "allowed" to edit the entry. "Who is in charge of content" and "can you edit that page?" are pretty common questions, even among people who have added via comments. And sometimes even in the comments — how many times have you seen a comment that the entry is wrong about something? That's not really a reason to remove them entirely, but their ease of use is not without ramification. Another potential path would be to have a cultural shift that non-review comments are aggressively edited: content free ones are removed, factual ones are incorporated, followed up with an explanation. Alas, like the original problem, this has pros and cons as well... some editors would likely be turned off that their contribution was altered or deleted, no matter how nice the explanation. I think the discussion would best be phrased as "where should the balance be", not looking for a hard rule or additional layer of overhead.
- Could the wiki software keep a count of how many times a user has edited pages via the "Edit" button and via a "Comment" field? If so, then it could provide a different interface depending on their history. "Zero edits? Ten comments? Are you sure you couldn't integrate your comment directly into the page rather than entering it as a comment?" "12,000+ edits? Significantly fewer comments? Good afternoon, JW!"
- (As a post script — note the wording of the original complaint. "Not every page needs..." I think this is a pretty good excuse to examine options to see if anybody has some better ideas. Of course, anything that is proposed has to be clearly good enough to actually motivate us editors to do it... there's no magical "somebody should" that can be invoked here. It's just us fishes.)
- I understood that no one was proposing eliminating them entirely. I meant that even in the non-user, non-restaurant (or non-business) pages, the comment bar lowers the bar (ha ha) for participation. But your point is well-taken that it makes people think that they aren't truly editors. If there was another way to make things easier for people who get freaked out by computer codes... or to emphasize that anyone can edit... I'd be happy with that. —CovertProfessor
- An example of several issues at once, all social, reinforced by various subtle things that decay or obfuscate concepts of editor equality and community.
- For more information, see Wiki Community/Longview, Town Characters/Talk, Wiki Community/Comment Integration
2010-03-10 08:06:48 So, uhh, I'm not sure I understand this discussion, guys. What's going on here? —TomGarberson
2010-03-10 08:26:14 But without my comment bar, how do I add comments?! —TomGarberson
- Some people are going to think you're serious, Tom. You might want to lighten up the deadpan. ;) -jw
- Poor pan :( Why would someone do that to it? Or was it a prescription drug OD? -tg
- Actually, auto-erotic asphyxiation. —hankim
- Now, now, grasshopper. -jw
I feel that a comment bar on each page is useful in showing new users what is opinion and what is fact. I take a look at the UC Davis Budget Cuts page and the earlier versions of the CalPIRG page and I see way too many opinions and biased information on the main parts (because I hold an opposing view) and I feel that too many new users might take for fact what is on the main part of the page without a section for comments. What could be done is to have a notice on the top of each page for all new users who have only logged in a few times or have only been registered for a week about being able to add information to the main part of the page and what kind of information is appropriate. The script should not be too difficult I believe, just an addition of text to the header after comparing today's date to the user's registration date or checking the number of log-ins (which might require a new column). —hankim
- Community opinion belongs right at the top (and open to editing by all), along with every other facet of the topic. This is a community wiki, not a business and government database. In fact, that false distinction is a major reason people started disliking the comment bar — when it started getting used, some people mistook it as a separator of classes of content rather than a tool to simply quickly add stuff to an entry. The flip of that is that there grew the thought that anything under the comment bar can't be edited just like the stuff that happens to be above it. It's all yours to edit, Han. Go for it, just keep room for others to do the same. Honestly, at this point, it might be massively beneficial to the wiki if the notion of sacrosanct text was blown away by strong and careful editing of comments. I alternate between being bitter and positive on this issue. -jw
- The issue becomes the definition of "community opinion." Usually, when it differs from one's point of view, it's not a community opinion but a single person's opinion that's in the main body of the entry. This difficulty in establishing whether something in the entry is actually an opinion of many, or simply the opinion of whoever happened to write it, is why there's so often calls for separating "fact" from "opinion" on the wiki. We can argue whether there's any difference, but I think there clearly has been in the minds of dozens of editors throughout the years. (By "whether there's a difference" I mean that any editor is by default a member of the community, and thus it's by definition a community opinion - which leads to some simply encouraging other people to add their opinion too to balance it - which ultimately leads to a clusterf@$! in the main body - which leads back to people wanting to separate that down to the comments section rather than treat an entry as a message board.) Rather cyclical. This happens most often during anything controversial: we've seen it this last week with the protest related pages, and have seen it before in greater detail (in terms of "entry level editing") on various political-based pages. Or especially abortion and religion. Of course, I think this makes it more difficult to have a general discussion about comment bars. -ES
- Hey, I wonder if a comment bar would make it easier to have a general discussion about comment bars... Hmmm... -tg
- I guess my main problem here is that when I was a little freshie who saw the Wiki for the first time, I took most of the non-comment parts as very reliable and neutral, enough so that I almost supported some of the things that I later rejected after doing independent research. I would prefer not to have that happen to others as well. Also, I feel that this leaves the Wiki open to edit wars where there are no clear calls. —hankim
- In my opinion, the main advantage of the comment bar is ease of use for people who are relatively new to the community. Even for people who are pretty tech savvy, jumping into something like this can be pretty intimidating. For those who aren't, trying to figure out their way around, the formatting, and so on may well be a bar to entry. For example, I'm fairly sure my parents, both of whom are pretty comfortable with computers, would take one look at the edit screen (when they eventually found it), and just close the window. —TomGarberson
- Editing words attributed to someone is fundamentally dishonest. When you edit the attributed words of another person, you are putting words in their mouth. That's a huge reason why the comment bar should be discouraged. It produces large volumes of text that is invariant (for ethical reasons) and the community editing process is hindered. Of course, once you take away attribution, this isn't a problem. The downside is people will feel like their voice has been taken away or possibly that they are being censored. —WilliamLewis
- A comment bar is needed on pages with controversial issues (like student protests or water fluoridation). I see the desire to get rid of it, it makes pages long and boring, but it does seperate obvious opinion from (as han also noted) presumed fact. —DagonJones
I hate to open this can of worms, but it has to be said. The problem isn't the comment bar, the problem is anonymity. I have to get back to work, more later —jimstewart
- Subtle disagreement(?): Anonymity seems to be okay, but accountability is a real problem. The two are very often closely related, but are not always so. I would also say that a closely related issue is an illusion of greater authority, which also sometimes ties back into issues of accountability. -jw
As a local business owner, I'm going to shoot my cash cow. But if you check the comments on almost any salon page, you will see why the comment bar (though great for me, since I get at least 1 Wiki referral per week) is ruining the concept of the wiki. I don't believe that half the comments are true customer endorsements. Even the comments that may be by clients of the owners, I believe to be solicited in some way. There's an extremely high no. of single comment users, and no true way to test whether they are real or not. I love the wiki as ad space, but from what I've read, I doubt that's the purpose it was created for. —Davidlm
2010-03-10 17:20:06 I am going to vote with the people who wish to leave it in. I too feel that we need to be able to clearly distinguish between facts versus opinions. Also, I have found that the discussions here that were facilitated through the comment box have helped the community to discover further facts to add to the main article. BTW, if the starting portion of my comment came out as code, then we need to change how the comment box operates. —PaulAmnuaypayoat
- I say we add that bug to the list of enhancements to be addressed in a future wiki build. BTW, hi William. Please let us have comments. - Paul Amnuaypayoat
Wes' Proposed solutions forward:
First off we need to:
- Recognize that every topic probably has people that want to discuss it (even if you don't want to discuss item X)
- Recognize that the current comment bar acts as "sort of" a forum discussion mechanism, albeit a bad one
- Recognize that threaded discussions are much nicer to read than unthreaded ones.
- Recognize that editing a huge discussion to insert a new comment is actually a pain (ie, finding the right spot in the text when it doesn't look like what you were just viewing takes time)
- Quickedit is actually a decent solution for this I think, I'm doing it with this reply for example. -NickSchmalenberger
The real question here, in my mind, is not "should page X have a comment section" but rather "how do we discuss page X" where X is one of:
- A business page (Ace Hardware)
- A person's page (SockPuppet)
- A common cultural page (Davis Bike Loop)
- A less common topic page (Dice)
Given all that, I think the choices forward are:
- Allow discussion on a page
- Business reviews and personal comments have traditionally been needed "on page"
- Allow discussion off the page in a new "discuss this" page
- Ideally with better forum/thread infrastructure
- I actually think "Talk" currently misnamed because it's not a long-lived discussion. We should have a "Discuss" page that is between the "Info" and "Talk" buttons to discuss topics like "which is better? The 20 sided die with 1-20 or the 20 sided die with 2 colored 0-9 ranges twice?"
People *will* want to discuss everything and a good wiki should facilitate that. One page for documentation, one for discussing documentation editing and another for just "chatting" about the topic (currently missing). This is what we're missing and is needed. Ideally with "reply to this" buttons that would thread it properly (unlike most other forum pages out there)
- I created something to do this around 2006-2007. It was called Mondo, as in the grass around a tree (Sycamore). It was an actual forum/BBS that shadowed every entry with it's own topics and replies. It had support for wiki markup for posts and replies and threading (which gives you various different views of discussions, etc). I think it was about that time that Philip started talking about rewriting things, as I had asked him about supporting OpenID to be able to link the logins easily. I had a basic working forum at the time, but never picked it back up after putting it on hold for the rewrite (which was Wiki Spot, launched spring of 2007). Of course, there's a new rewrite slated now, so maybe I can dust it off, work on it and find it obsolete. :) -jw
More and more I am starting to agree with this, wading through long boring comments is a drag. I like the comment integration macro, that is pretty cool —DagonJones
When I first joined the wiki I would always try and integrate my thoughts, but make sure that people know they are mine, but I would find people moving my comments out of the body and into the comment's section. I remember my comment on burgers and brew with the bacon, which I believe is still in the article. We should have comment integration, it's just when I had that as my default stance I would find resistance from people... —StevenDaubert
- I think there was resistance because you were the only one doing it, in which case the problem could be solved simply with increased participation. —EBT
- Actually, Daubert was doing it the traditional way it used to be done. Most of the original structure of the wiki was built that way. -jw
- Oh, I probably have his case confused with something else I stumbled upon earlier. (Forgot specifics; I was randomly clicking around and X said that Y shouldn't fill Z page with his own opinions) —ebt
- Oh hey, I found it again: re: steve's pizza (right, obv. too recent to be related to "first joined the wiki")
- Yeah, there is another instance of people resisting comments that are integrated but still attributed! —StevenDaubert
- Reply left on your user page.
2010-05-09 22:29:02 I was just realizing how, often when I am looking through recent changes I look especially for comments because they are more interesting for me to read than punctuation changes and other unremarkable edits. Before Sycamore, I used to look at the size of the difference between the old and new versions, to find especially interesting edits, the "Comment added." has partially replaced this for me. —NickSchmalenberger
- I really do miss the page size indicators. Maybe I should feature request that it be put back in. It doesn't make sense that "Comment added" — i.e. appended to the bottom of the entry — should be where the most interesting content should go. I'd prefer to lead with my most interesting content, and leave side chatter to the bottom. It's just better writing style when you don't bury the good stuff. —BrentLaabs
2010-06-27 13:31:10 The question at this point for me is why should editors leave [[Comment]] macros on pages. What is to stop the mass removal of all comment macros throughout this wiki? Everyone can still edit, but they will have to edit rather than just drop a comment about how nasty their experience was or how they are sure that they were given food poisoning. —JasonAller
What's stoping me from doing it is the potential backlash from the rest of the community. It would be a major departure from how the wiki has worked since mid 2007. —WilliamLewis
- Community backlash? Which community? I'd argue that those without identity are making a pretty clear statement about not wanting to be part of the Davis Community. As to the Wiki Community... we can discuss it at least. Perhaps even agree that we face a "broken windows" situation with regard to the overwhelming mass of zero-identity commentors establishing that as a new norm. —JasonAller
The comment bar is easy to use. Editing, right now, isn't. Lots of amazing contributions happen via the comment bar. —PhilipNeustrom
- Is it too easy to use? Would we miss out on the good content without it, or would the effect be that we would just miss out on the abusive comments? —JasonAller
The only thing I don't get is that individuals have placed comment bars on business pages, only to have them removed, a la AM/PM. Are business pages an appropriate place to have the comment bar or not? —condemned2bfree
- Somebody added it, somebody else removed it. It's up to the people who are editing to decide in each case. -jw
- That makes sense in a philosophical way, but doesn't it then encourage you to get into a war with another editor, placing it and then removing it over and over again? I don't want to do that. It seems immature. —condemned2bfree
2010-07-02 20:46:56 I think this is about as simple as any other generalized issue is. The fact is that unsophisticated users leave unsophisticated feedback. People will be unproductive whether they use the comment bar or not, so it's up to the individual to sort through the junk to find the gems. Like mine, of course. —KBathory